PORTLAND – Federal sequester-mandated cuts mean Head Start early leaning programs across the country are shaving nearly $405 million from their budgets and will serve about 57,000 fewer preschool students.
That includes many students in the northwest. In Oregon, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates Head Start will enroll 834 fewer students this year. In Washington, 750 low-income preschoolers will be served by Head Start.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D) OR was in Portland for a town hall on health care, but also weighed in on the new estimates on Head Start cuts.
“You either get there early with effective programs, particularly ones that are educational in nature and you help those youngsters or you play catch up for years and years later," Wyden said. "So often in the welfare system and criminal justice system where the expenses are much greater.”
KXL Radio host Lars Larson sees it differently. The conservative talker cited studies that say Head Start does not have long-term academic benefits for students.
“Best thing that could have happened to Head Start, because Head Start is a multi-billion dollar waste of time. Yet, we spend billions of dollars, this year 8 billion dollars on Head Start across the country. And it sounds great but what it really amounts to is glorified daycare,” said Larson.
Amelia Reyes went to Head Start as a child, and is now hoping to enroll her daughter and a niece she cares for in the program with Portland Public Schools.
“It would help my kids get into learning—learn new stuff, interact with other kids, play,” said Reyes. She said it would help her to have daycare, too. Reyes would like to work in order to afford a college education.